BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Many fans and observers thought that the dispute between the Selangor FA (FAS) and its former president and Selangor state Menteri Besar (chief minister) Dato' Seri Azmin Ali was already over following the latter's acrimonious resignation from the association, and withdrawal of state funding at the end of 2016.
However, last week they were surprised by the news that a new building complex in the outskirts of Shah Alam in Puncak Alam, which had initially been built by the state government for FAS' use, will not be handed over to the association after all.
Current FAS president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal was up in arms over the action, and held a press conference on Friday to demand the complex from the state. He also told the press that the association will take legal action against the state, claiming that the complex had been promised by the previous state administration to FAS, as compensation for a more lucrative FAS-owned piece of land that had been taken over by the government during a happier period of relationship between the two parties.
This latest development has certainly threatened to begin the second round of the dispute that had begun last year, when the association's executive committee (exco) went against then-president Azmin's directive involving the sacking of two officials. But the table was then turned against him, and with no support for him in the exco, Azmin left, taking the state funding along with him.
Subahan then won the presidential post unchallenged in an extraordinary general meeting in March 2017, promising reform, financial independence, increased professionalism and modernisation under his tenure.
He certainly is well within his rights to be upset at the state's decision to take over the complex, as the complex would have been the first step in the effort to reignite the 33-time Malaysia Cup champions fading glory. After all, not many Malaysian clubs possess their own headquarters and training ground, two basic things that most proper football clubs around the world have.
Furthermore, the complex had been very close to a hand over to FAS, judging by the looks of it. As far back as 2015, photos of the almost-completed complex have been making its round on social media, with the FAS crest prominently emblazoned on the entrance, just awaiting the occupants' arrival. Only recently has the crest been removed, which means that the state's decision has been a sudden one, made after the dispute and Azmin's resignation.
The state then responded through its youth, sports, culture and entreprenuer development executive committee member Amirudin Shari, who was also the Red Giants manager during Azmin's presidency, saying that it has decided against handing the complex as FAS had wasted away many of its state-granted assets previously.
Amidst this war of words and bickering, it is the club and the fans that suffer. The Red Giants faithful had been excited at the prospect of their club owning their own purpose-built headquarters and training ground, instead of using the state government secretariat complex (SUK) pitch, as well as seeing the new direction of the team under the new FAS leadership.
Instead, again they are disappointed by the interference of politicians, and this time politicians who no longer had a role in the FAS exco.
That is not to say that FAS is completely blameless. After all, Azmin's effort to oust the two officials in 2016 had not been without reason, and several members of its previous administration are still in the current one, oddly enough. Furthermore, FAS' underhanded retaliation by trying to sabotage former affiliate club PKNS FC's chances of competing in the Super League just before this season began is still fresh on everyone's mind.
But for most of the fans, Azmin had walked away with the current exco line-up emerging the victors, and they now want to see FAS fulfill its promises of transformation without outside interference and disruptions.
Azmin Ali. Photo taken from Azmin Ali Facebook
The state should avoid protracting the dispute any longer, and simply hand over the complex to FAS as it had intended to do, if not for anything, then as a sort of one-off compensation, much like what is paid by one spouse to another in cases of divorce, to not have to ever deal with them again.
Much like children of married couples who are going through a bitter end of their union, the Selangor fans need closure to this whole affair, preferably one that gives them something to look forward to.
After all, if the state is concerned about the future of football in the state, they had already succeeded in landing a new, more pliant 'spouse' in PKNS FC, which has been receiving increased state support.
No one should enter into a new 'marriage' while still actively trying to scuttle their former spouse's effort to move on. It definitely smacks of unhealthy obsession, and will lead to ruin for all the parties involved.
In addition to this, if the complex is handed over to FAS as a sort of parting compensation, then the state of Selangor will have let two models of football development flourish within its borders. With PKNS it is a model that is financially-supported by the state, and through FAS it will have a private, independent model of football development.
Its concern that FAS will take the complex for granted if the association is handed the complex is a valid one, but a two-hectare piece of land that sits some distance away from the urban area would hardly be a major loss to the most cash-rich state in the country. And if FAS does fail in a few years time, then the state could probably buy it off them at a reduced price. Maybe by that time Puncak Alam would be ready for a shopping mall.